A New Jersey referee has been suspended after he gave black teenager an ultimatum during a wrestling match last week — cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit the match.
Andrew Johnson, a wrestler at Buena Regional High School, was reportedly wearing a cover over his dreadlocks when the moment occurred, but the referee, Alan Maloney, allegedly said that wouldn’t suffice, according to SNJ Today.
Johnson chose to cut his hair but appeared upset in a widely circulated video of the moment. The teen went on to win the match.
The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association are currently investigating the incident after widespread backlash, with many calling the move racist.
Maloney will remain suspended until the investigation is finished.
"How many different ways will people try to exclude Black people from public life without having to declare their bigotry?” The New Jersey Chapter of the ACLU tweeted. “We’re so sorry this happened to you, Andrew. This was discrimination, and it's not okay.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy also said he was “deeply disturbed” after watching the video.
“No student should have to needlessly choose between his or her identity & playing sports,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.
Apparently this isn’t the first time Maloney has come under fire for allegations of racism.
In 2016, the referee was accused of calling another black referee the N-word and a fight ensued. Both referees were temporarily suspended, the Courier Post reported.
When SNJ Today called a number associated with Maloney, a woman who answered the phone said the matter was "being blown out of proportion" and that Maloney was following the rules, the paper reported.
Wrestlers are allowed to have dreads, so long as they wear a covering that is "snug" to the person in question's body, according to National Federation of State High School Associations. Johnson was wearing a cover, but it's not clear how snugly fit it was.
Johnson had previously wrestled with dreads without issue, the Courier Post reported.